I was sleeping very deeply when the dog woke me up this morning. I was sleeping deeper than I have in a very long time. I went to bed last night in more peace than I have been in a very long time.
The day did not start out that way. I never know what will be coming on December 29. Yesterday was the eighth anniversary of the death of my little brother Lido in a hunting accident. He was seventeen years old and when I got the phone call at 9:23 am on December 29, 2008 my life changed forever.
I changed forever. There was once a time when I could hold a jury or any audience spell bound when telling a story or making a point. There was once a time when I could move a child from tears to laughter with the turn of a phrase.
There was once a time when I could smile without it being a fake smile.
The days leading up to yesterday were better than they generally are at the end of December. Staying busy--working hard and constantly seeking the warm embrace of exhaustion--looking back and reminding myself that I have persevered--looking at the new land and the new programs and reminding myself of what we have created at the horse lot--
But not yesterday itself.
It was bad from the moment that I woke up in the middle of the night--raining hard, windy--usually do not let the weather distract me from getting any work done but not yesterday--out of the blue Lydia shows up in the rain. We sit on the porch and talk. Did not get the same peaceful feeling that I usually get from talking to Lydia.
Did not relax.
Went to the office--at 9:23 I realized that I would not be able to stay. Had lunch with Jen and Lydia--went to my new land. The night before I had walked through the pines where I planned to put the hog pens-flashed through my mind to tell Lido to work on that while I cut more fence posts--even after eight years that flashed through my mind.
Even after eight years.
Weather turned bad fast-strange weather, super high winds, dark sky, cancelled the night ride--went home and listened to "What It Means" by Drive By Truckers over and over--powerful song about young men who die by gunfire in a very different context.
And then Ashley came home.
By far the best part of Christmas was watching Ashley pull out a picture frame that I had gotten her for Christmas. In it I had placed her adoption decree. She gave a half gasp, a quick tear, and an equally quick hug.
Beth is visiting her family in the mountains and with the night ride cancelled I was not at all sure how I would be spending the evening of December 29. Ashley and I went to dinner--best dinner that I have had in a long time. We headed home.
She was happy. She had been by a clothing store and picked up a dress for New Year's Eve. Before she showed it to me she took on a bit of a lecturing tone. She obviously was concerned about what her father would think about the dress. She explained that the dress was a party dress, that she was 22 years old, that she would be wearing leggings with it....then she came back in the living room to show me the dress after I had received all such necessary paternal warnings.
The dress was beautiful. The dress was a fine dress for a 22 year old young women to wear to a party (with leggings!). I was a bit amused by the fact that she wanted to make sure that her Daddy thought the dress was ok.
She did not look like the same person that I met when she was seventeen years old. She had survived the most hellish existence of anyone that I had ever known. At age seventeen she looked defeated. She was not.
Looks are deceiving.
This picture is from her birthday party at the Little House a few years ago. It is a picture of a wonderful young women who already has touched a lot of lives. She has already helped many people begin to heal. She has taught me how to better help others in their healing process.
In the days after Lido's death I was flooded with calls, notes, and emails from people telling me how much Lido had inspired them--how much he helped them learn to ride--how they preferred having him help them with the horses because he never made them feel like failures.
They told me that his simple example--just watching him--a teenager with cerebral palsy who had nearly no use of his right arm--catch, saddle, train and ride wild horses had made them believe in themselves.
He believed that he could do anything...and he believed that others could too.
My daughter Ashley can do anything--even make December 29 a very good day for me.